Questions have been asked about the number of planning applications which the operator of a Penrith animal rendering plant has lodged with Eden District Council.
Omega Proteins operates the animal rendering plant, which has been the source of intermittent odour problems for many years, on the edge of the town.
Speaking at a full meeting of the district authority, Jeff Thomson, of campaign group Fresh Air for Penrith, said: “Omega operates a controversial animal rendering plant at a huge, already over intensified, industrial site at Wildriggs on the rural edge of Penrith.
“Omega has seven live planning applications before Eden District Council dating back to 2019, with some retrospective.
“These planning applications aren’t decided on — they are just left in the wilderness while Omega keeps building.”
He said the applications have objections lodged against them, are locally sensitive, and are from an applicant with a history of causing odour nuisance – known as the Penrith pong – which significantly interferes with the enjoyment and use of local properties.
“There is a massive lack of transparency at EDC regarding Omega planning applications and a lack of public confidence in EDC’s planning procedures,” said Mr Thomson.
He added that there was a lack of urgency and continued refusal by Eden Council to listen to and represent residents.
“When will EDC wake up to the views and interests of local people, residents, the electorate, be transparent and ‘call in’ the seven planning applications from Omega Proteins to the planning committee for discussion, debate and democratic vote?”.
Eden Council leader Virgina Taylor (Lib Dem, Penrith) said: “I hope that Mr Thomson will recognise my good faith as I acknowledge that his tireless lobbying of Eden District Council members and officers is motivated by his desire to protect the amenity of residents and visitors.
“EDC and its members are not free agents — we are constrained by the legal and regulatory powers the authority holds. In his question Mr Thomson is asking EDC to act outside the powers we hold.
“If there are no material planning grounds to object to an application, debate and democracy are irrelevant.”
She said that planning law and policy cannot accommodate Mr Thomson’s demands, even though those demands may seem reasonable to the residents whose amenity is adversely affected by the plant’s location close to their homes.
“To address the problem there has to be a new conversation and I would hope that, Mr Thomson, you will be willing to engage in that,” she added.
A spokesman for the Leo Group, which owns and operates Omega Proteins, said: “Omega has submitted several planning applications for consideration by Eden District Council, as part of an ongoing programme to modernise and improve the long-established plant at Greystoke Road.
“Each application is accompanied by a planning statement to explain what is proposed and how it fits with local and national planning policies, to help those who are interested understand what is proposed, and why.
“The planning application process is transparent, providing an opportunity for review and comment by the public and statutory bodies such as the Environment Agency, before the council reaches a decision.
“Operations at the Omega plant are strictly regulated and subject to a great deal of scrutiny, not only at the planning application stage, but on an ongoing basis, to ensure the site operates according to current legislation and permit conditions.
“The business is investing heavily in Penrith to ensure it is at the forefront of the animal by products industry, deploying the latest plant, equipment and control technologies that go above and beyond standard environmental requirements.”